It’s perilous buying cod nowadays. You don’t want to endanger the poor old cod, but damn it’s tasty! We put together this infographic at Great British Chefs to help you buy sustainable cod. I think it looks pretty nifty even if I do say so myself!
I’ve had another hiatus on the blog-writing front recently but that doesn’t mean I’ve not been cooking! I’ve been coming up with some of my own dishes over the past few couple of months which I feel is quite a big improvement. Thinking back 12 months I was slavishly following recipe books, now I’m thinking up recipes and have got the techniques to make them real! Here’s something I’ve cooked a couple of times now that went down a treat at the weekend.
2 lamb neck fillets, approx 300 grams in total
300ml red wine
1 sprig rosemary
3 sage leaves
1 bay leaf
6 white peppercorns
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 sprig rosemary leaves, very finely chopped
5 large mint leaves, very finely chopped
250g pasta dough
3 egg yolks
1 pinch saffron
50ml hot water
1 egg, beaten
500g frozen peas
150ml double cream
½ lemon, juiced
50g Pea shoots
100g Parmesan cheese
Cooking time 3 hours 30 minutes
1. Preheat the oven to 150C. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and seal the lamb fillets, turning until they are lightly browned on all sides.
2. Remove from the frying pan and place in a deep casserole dish along with the red wine, sprig of rosemary, sage leaves, bay leaf and peppercorns. Cover and cook in the oven for 3 hours.
3. For the puree, cook the peas in a pan of salted water for 5-6 minutes until soft. Drain, place in a blender and blend on high speed, slowly adding the cream until the mixture becomes very smooth. Continue to blend, adding the lemon juice and seasoning with a pinch of salt and pepper.
4. Pass the puree through a fine sieve, using the back of a spoon to push it through. You should end up with a smooth, emulsified puree with no pea skin. Set aside.
5. Next move onto the pasta dough. Place the pinch of saffron threads in 100ml boiled water to infuse. Place the flour, olive oil and a pinch of salt in a blender and blend slowly, Add the egg yolks and egg, before slowly adding the saffron water, pouring it through a sieve to make sure you don’t add any saffron threads.
6. Remove from the blender and knead in a bowl until completely combined, adding extra water if too dry or flour if too wet. Good pasta dough should not stick to your hands. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least an hour.
7. About 15 minutes before the lamb finishes cooking, heat a little olive oil in a saucepan over a low-medium heat and sweat the shallots until very soft but not coloured. Add the red wine vinegar, turn up the heat slightly and boil until almost evaporated. Remove the pan from the heat.
8. Take the lamb out of the oven. In a large mixing bowl shred the meat using a knife and fork – it should be tender and come apart very easily. Add the shallots, finely chopped rosemary and the chopped mint and mix well. Season to taste and set aside.
9. Using a pasta machine, roll 2 small balls of pasta dough to a thickness of 1mm onto a well-floured surface. Place generous teaspoons of the lamb and shallot mixture onto one of the sheets of pasta leaving approx 7-8cm gaps in between. Use a pastry brush to spread egg wash around each pile of lamb mixture.
10. Carefully place the second sheet of pasta over the first and press down around the lamb. The egg wash will act as a glue. Use a 5cm diameter pastry cutter or biscuit cutter to cut out round tortellini. As you pick each one up lightly press around the edges to ensure a tight seal. Repeat until you have 18 tortellini.
11. Reheat your puree in a pan over a low heat. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the tortellini and cook for 4-5 minutes, until they are cooked but not floppy. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen towel to drain.
12. In a bowl, lightly dress the pea shoots with olive oil. On heated plates, spoon 2 tbsp of pea puree and spread into a circle. Place 3 tortellini on to the puree and place three pea shoots around the circle. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and top with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese to serve.
I’m in agreement with Giles Coren that it’s generally a bit of a waste of time to order steak at a restaurant. It’s the easiest thing to cook at home, and there’s not much that a chef can do with it that you wouldn’t be able to rustle up in fifteen minutes yourself. That hasn’t stopped the rise in recent years of the steak house as a resurgent culinary trend, with the Gaucho and Hawksmoor chains proving popular throughout the capital and even Marco Pierre White trying to get in on the act, with disastrous results. I’m saving that review for a particularly bad Monday.
Flat Iron Steak in London’s Soho is achingly on-trend. A former pop-up that has found a permanent home a few doors along from Polpo, the interior is all exposed brick work and wooden fittings. There are no bookings, tables are shared with other diners and the menu takes reductionism to the extreme: one cut of steak (the Flat Iron, if you hadn’t guessed) is the only choice. There are six sides, four sauces, a side helping of salad and a few puddings. Eschewing centuries of received wisdom there are no knives, just a big cleaver with which to cut your meat.
We ordered, unsurprisingly, the steak. It was cooked well, not the best I’ve ever tasted but the texture was smooth – flat iron cuts are from the shoulder of the cow and so can be a bit tougher, but ours was cooked rare and melted in the mouth just as steak should. I opted for peppercorn sauce and a tasty roast aubergine gratin. It came served with a little glass of watercress, and we washed it down with Bethnal Green Pale Ale. It was a good meal and reasonable on the wallet: £10 for the steak, £4 for the side, so about £20 in total including drinks. Service was friendly and professional.
My only amazement is that Flat Iron has quite the reputation it does. In advance of our visit many spoke of it in hushed tones; queues can apparently be round the block, although we arrived at 6 and were seated without a problem. It is what it is: an enjoyable, affordable steak served with minimum of fuss.
February saw us hosting a Great British Chefs supper club, which involved myself, Ollie and Mex from GBC cooking for 11 of the best food bloggers in the UK, to say thanks for their work for us and support throughout the past year. To say I was nervous was an understatement. I’ve never cooked individual plates of food for that many people before, relying on one pots or curries to feed large numbers, and one area of my cooking that I needed to improve is getting plates of food out hot. It’s something I’ve sometimes struggled with cooking for four people, let alone fourteen!
I chose a sea bass recipe from the GBC site, so if you want to try it yourself you can find the recipe here. For the fish I spoke to the incredibly helpful Richard at the Fin and Flounder fishmongers, who was struggling to get wild sea bass but recommended grey mullet as a substitute. Coming fresh from Cornwall the wild fish are caught further out at sea which gives them a superior texture and flavour, while the fillets were absolutely enormous! There was easily enough to feed four people with one fish, making them really economical. It’s not the sort of thing you’re likely to pick up at the supermarket but if you do have a good fishmonger I’d highly recommend asking them to get some for you.
I made the purée the night before, which was incredibly creamy. The red wine jus I made during the day and, with the help of Eliot our in-house chef, simmered down to a really nice consistency for a thick jus that wasn’t too watery. Flagelot and butter beans were simple enough to heat through with a bit more cream, garlic roasted in the oven and reheated at the last minute, and a few chopped sun dried tomatoes and some wilted rocket gave the dish some colour. Then it was just onto frying 14 pieces of fish!
The main tips I got from Eliot were to get the pan really hot, use more oil than you might think necessary, lightly press the fish down as it goes into the pan, and then leave it for at least a couple of minutes before you move it around. This worked a treat and meant I got a really nice crisp, golden skin which didn’t stick to the pan. To make sure it was all warm I didn’t turn the fillets over but just preheated the oven and finished them off in there for a few minutes before serving.
I’m really enjoying cooking fish at the moment, and feel I’ve got the fillet/purée/sides style dishes working pretty well as you can prepare so much in advance. There are plenty of recipes in that vein on the Great British Chefs site so have a look if you want to give it a try.
Picture courtesy of Jeanne at www.cooksister.com who came along for the evening!
I’ve reviewed Bistro Bruno Loubet for the Great British Chefs website. My verdict? Well I’m not posting the full review twice but you can find it at http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/community/bistro-bruno-loubet-review
We’ve been working on this Infographic at Great British Chefs for a couple of weeks… dried horse rectum for dinner, anyone?
We just made this fun infographic at work this week, so I thought I’d share it. It makes me think I really need to get over to Bray and try to fit in all four starred restaurants there in one weekend!
Great British Chefs guide to Michelin 2013 – An infographic by the team at Great British Chefs
Autumn is a great time for seasonal ingredients – the Ginger Pig in Victoria Park had partridge, pheasant and venison and guinea fowl in stock this weekend. We opted for the guinea fowl so I pulled out the trusty Cordon Bleu book and found a nice looking recipe for Pintade Cocotte Grand Mère, which translates as Pot Roast Guinea Fowl with Potatoes, Mushrooms and Bacon. Garniture Grand Mère is the name of the vegetable mixture, hence the French name for the dish.
It was relatively simple – mushrooms peeled and quartered, bacon lardons blanched, pearl onions peeled and potatoes turned into slightly imperfect cocottes, which was a bit time consuming and could easily be just cut into 2cm cubes. Bay leaf, apple and thyme went inside the guinea fowl which I then browned on all sides in some oil before roasting in the pot for 15 minutes, then adding the vegetables and bacon to the pot and into the oven for another 30.
Once it came out I poured the fat off, browned the cooking juices, deglazed with white wine and then poured in some veal stock (brought back from our French holiday, hard to find here but available from Frenchclick). This reduced and thickened a bit, and then I strained through a sieve before whisking in some butter. To serve, the veg garniture went back into the pot mixed with some chopped parsley, sauce poured over it and the bird placed on top. A delicious autumnal Sunday lunch – Google have scanned the recipe here and I’d highly recommend it while guinea fowl is in season.
OK first of the backlog – this was a dessert that I made for a dinner party back in April. Bavarois translates a ‘Bavarian cream’, and is made by first creating a crème Anglaise – infusing milk with vanilla and combining with egg yolks and sugar, adding gelatin to set. The crème is then divided into three; one third is mixed with dark chocolate, another with coffee essence and the third stays vanilla flavoured. A good 400mls of whipping cream is then whipped and again divided by three and combined with the flavoured crèmes.
The vanilla mixture is then poured into a charlotte mould and put in the fridge to set before the coffee layer is put on top, allowed to set again and then finally the chocolate mixture, and then I left the whole thing to rest overnight. To serve I just made a crème Chantilly, adding icing sugar to whipping cream and piping on top, and shaved some dark chocolate over it with a peeler.
My only disappointment with this was that, in following the instructions, I held the Bavarois in warm water to loosen it from the charlotte mould but it meant that it melted and actually started to run down the sides, so it doesn’t look like the picture in the book which definitely doesn’t have runny bits of vanilla Bavarois trickling from the top. But it was an impressive centre piece dessert and everyone seemed to enjoy it, including my vegetarian friend Katy… I didn’t even twig about the gelatin until we were half way through it. I’m SO sorry Katy!